“Factory Girl”

George Hickenlooper’s 2006 Factory Girl, Thomas Crow’s Lives of Allegory, and Stephen Koch’s Biography of Andy Warhol Stargazer each offer different perspectives and biases about the relationship between pop artist icon Warhol and Hollywood socialite-turned-drug-addict Edie Sedgwick. While similar in some respects, each author assigns Warhol a different responsibility in Sedgwick’s dark turn. Hickenlooper’s film certainly shows Andy in the worst light; Factory Girl suggests Andy was responsible for and had a direct role in Sedgwick’s turn to drugs. Koch’s Stargazer blames Warhol for not providing Sedgwick the help she needed when the signs were obvious. Crow’s essay plays it relatively unbiased implying both were not perfect.

Factory Girl’s version of Warhol was almost a monster. Certain scenes in Factory Girl only existed to show how unsympathetic and vile Warhol was toward Edie Sedgwick. In these following scenes, Sedgwick has already made the turn from beautiful socialite to drug addict. The restaurant scene is one example, when a needy Edie walks in asking for Warhol’s help. Warhol is not only completely unsympathetic to Edie’s condition, but has the time to offer her verbal insults. Warhol gives the impression that Edie is of no importance to him. Another scene was the attempted rape. While he doesn’t participate, Warhol just watches along and Edie is getting assaulted. Other examples in the film are Edie’s constant reminders that Warhol has not paid her the money she’s earned. Factory Girl certainly portrays Warhol as villainous, and Guy Pierce gives an extraordinary performance as a believably emotionless Warhol.

Stargazer is just as adamant in placing the blame of Edie’s demise on Warhol, although for very different reasons than Hickenlooper. In Factory Girl, Warhol is much more villainous and is blamed for his active participation in Edie’s turn to drug addiction; in Stargazer, Koch blames Warhol for his passivity, or in other words, his refusal to help Edie when he saw she needed it. Koch writes “[Warhol’s] defense [to Edie’s drug addiction/death, is the classic self-defense: there was nothing I could do” (Koch viii). Here, Koch is referring to Warhol’s response regarding Edie: “I learned that when I was little and tried to tell someone what to do, nothing happened. I just couldn’t carry it off. I learned that you actually have more power when you shut up” (viii). Here, Warhol is admitting and justifying that he watched Edie’s life crumble and did nothing to help. Koch goes on to reprimand Warhol, “[Warhol’s] claim has of course an obvious plausibility, even as it evades the opposite counterclaim: you could try at least. It is central to him, his whole style. Warhol does not try” (viii). In a sense, Koch places the blame on Warhol for an entirely opposite reason that Hickenlooper’s film does. In Factory Girl, Warhol was directly actively responsible for Edie’s outcome, by not paying her, and even sadistically watching Edie getting raped (although Koch’s method could apply here – after all, Warhol did nothing but watch), while Koch blames Warhol for being too passive – for not helping enough when he could have and watching Edie’s crumble from the sidelines.

Contrary to Koch’s description of Warhol as this emotionless, unassertive character, Crow’s essay suggests Warhol was at least deep artistically, with his pieces diversely ranging from brutal accidents, to civil rights protests, to criminals, and heroic Hollywood icons, like Elvis, equipped with a gun in hand, ready to “challenge those nightmare conditions” (120). Crow demonstrates that while Warhol may appeared to be unsympathetic and void of emotion in reality, his art suggests that deep down, he had a conscious; his civil rights pieces, for example, showed that he cared about the community being deprived of their rights. While Warhol’s outer behavior suggests something different, his art pieces reflect his inner emotions. Crow doesn’t go into any specifics blaming Warhol for Edie’s demise. He mentions Edie’s death, but doesn’t say Warhol’s necessarily responsible. Crow does, however, illustrate that Bob Dylan gave Edie warnings, most notably in his song “Like a Rolling Stone” subtly (and perhaps anonymously to others) referring to Warhol as a mystery tramp and a Napoleon in rags (130) and then Crow transitions in to the allegory between Dylan and Warhol. Crow’s essay was perhaps the most unbiased of the three, sticking mainly with factual events and equal treatment to its characters; the other two, more so Factory Girl, utilized sensationalism to tell its story.


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